Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir's Good Ole' Neighbours

The biggest jolt imaginable to the possibilities of democratizing Pakistan in the current scenario. That's what Benazir Bhutto's assassination by Al-Qaeda (according to latest reports the organization has claimed responsibility for the act) is.
And some of our national leaders (more 'nationalist' if you get the point...) can think of nothing better to say than "jo aag Pakistan ne Bharat ke liye lagayi thi us mein woh khud hi jal raha hai"
Very mature, very politically wise, very relevant and oh such a boost to the ongoing peace-process between the two neighbours.
I take it I don't really need to specify the name of the party to which these national leaders belong.
I know we have all given up hope that our politicians would either talk sense or simply shut up. And you'd think that recent victories in a couple of state assemblies would have made them at least temporarily magnanimous, even if they can not be expected to have bestowed upon them the sense to see that retrospection and a fresh line of thought and action might benefit the people who've voted them into power as well as the ailing image of the party itself.

First of all, it was a very childish, petty and inopportune comment to have been made by such experienced political leaders in a country as strewn with controversies and political issues as ours. Not to mention the implications this latest crisis would have for the Pakistani Awam.

Secondly, it is not as if political instability in Pakistan is going to spell any short or long term benefit for India or the Indian subcontinent. Particularly if we take into account- and there is no sensible reason why we shouldn’t- the growing political and social instability, and militant activity in Bangladesh, the escalating war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, and the nascent democratic scene in Nepal.

As has been pointed out by many a journalist lately, the void in the political picture in a Pakistan struggling desperately to hold onto some semblance of democracy, would only invite and provide for political strengthening of fundamentalist forces in the country. A situation the Pakistani people need and want to avoid as badly as the people of any other country in the world would. As badly as we should too- and not just for our own sakes either.
The fundamentalist forces that claim to have carried off Benazir’s assassination would spell disaster for a democratic Pakistan and a peaceful India. We really can not afford to be the least bit smug about the deteriorating political process in Pakistan. And I hate to argue that it isn’t good for us. When would we begin to try and understand that the people there are as defenselessly caught in the crossfire between fundamentalist forces, the Pak military and insensible and ambitious politicians as we claim to be between the vested interests of various militant groups, politicians and Big Business.

Who isn’t?

Another point is that when the entire world, including former Ministers in the British government, is openly acknowledging the role American strategic interests and the American dollar played in establishing, strengthening, equipping (with arms, software and foot soldiers- through liberally funded Madarssas ) and training the Al-Qaeda cadre; when The History Channel has been busy showing exactly how the USA used terrorist groups drunk on nationalist and fundamentalist ideals and values to fight the USSR in an Afghanistan fraught with tribal disputes, why do our national parties have to behave like well trained obstinate ostriches???

Why do we have to help breed antipathy towards and disbelief in the democratic cause in Pakistan? When would we learn as a sovereign political entity and a ‘great’ democracy, to accept the home truths in and around the nation as far as superpowers and wars on terrorism and hidden agendas are concerned?

However, the issue isn’t just that here. Without doubt we have to correct our stands and our stances on issues of international importance. But apart from that we also have to look at this crisis in terms of the implications it would have for our own internal security and intelligence networks, security and stability in our border areas and the example this sets for resurgent militant groups in India.
More over, we have to stop playing our respective communal cards and vote bank politics- a bitter example of which was the one-horse race in Gujarat, and the soft-campaign politics adopted by the Congress- the conspicuous absence of political substance and relevant social issues from that campaign.

We have to accept that deprivation, marginalization and a callous ostracization from development agendas and processes make for the best possible breeding ground for any kind of militant groups- whether they are rooted in Islamic fundamentalism or not.
Add to that our communal politics and we have an infallible recipe for a failed state, not to say a state steeped in hatred, violence and with no immediate mechanism available to stay together or move forward together.

We must not overlook the terrible fate of the traditionally ignored tribes residing in the northern and eastern provinces of Pakistan- the areas that are such strongholds of various terrorist groups that they are for the most part inaccessible even to the Pak military and political leadership. That of course, does not leave much scope for aid funds or aid workers to achieve much either. There is no way these regions would not accommodate any plans terrorist groups might have for broad-basing. Actually there is no way the people in these regions could find to oppose any such plans. What any part of the national or regional leadership in India should avoid is to comment on the non-existent or enforced willingness of the Pakistani people in accommodating terrorist interests.

The blanket comments we make regarding an ever-present all-encompassing popular Pakistani will to attack the development processes or the fragile peace in India only serve to show the immaturity of our political cadre as well as the lack of any kind of understanding in the Indian people of the current terrorist situation and the international political scenario.

We need not only to forge better relations with our neighbours considering our own strategic, security and developmental interests but also to gain a better and correct understanding of their issues, their circumstances, their political and strategic mechanisms, and their needs. We also need to know better than to take the word of our leaders for anything- we need to look at the struggles brewing in almost every corner of our nation for resources, for a sane and sensible political representation. We need to understand what ideologies and governmental behaviour led to such a huge section of our population being left out of all sorts of considerations. We need to ensure that we do not blindly follow the courses charted by our political leaders without considering the effects it would have on other sections of the society and their survival and developmental needs.

And we need to do all this not just to avoid furthering of terrorist interests but because unjust political or social systems could never give us the kind of compassionate, intelligent and broadminded human beings we need to create a sensible and stable world order.

Most importantly, let us all develop the difficult habit of thinking before we comment on things- particularly when the comments form part of a message of dubious commiseration to the hurt and bewildered people of a nation in the throes of social and political turbulence.

1 comment:

mutRupuLLi said...

A well written piece. Agree fully with your sentiments.